Welfare Society (PAWS)
A recent article written by Dr. Michael Hutchins of the American Zoo Association (AZA) causes uproar with noted sanctuary leaders and PAWS directors and members.
PAWS is appalled at the AZA's statements regarding the placement of elephants from the Detroit and San Francisco zoos to sanctuaries.
"The AZA should be the leader in improving conditions for captive wildlife. This will be possible only if Dr. Hutchins and AZA focus attention on cruel training, substandard facilities and ethical improprieties within their own organization. To circle the wagons and defend the guilty while punishing the innocent is not the solution. " Pat Derby states in her recent rebuttal to Dr. Hutchins report.
For over 20 years PAWS has been conducting investigations on AZA accredited zoos in the United States. Incredibly, good zoos and good zoo directors are castigated for their ethical and philosophical concerns regarding elephants and other animals in their care, while AZA "favored" zoos have maintained substandard elephant facilities that are recognized by the AZA for their expertise and even applauded for their actions.
This latest decision by the AZA to threaten revocation of accreditation of two zoos Detroit and San Francisco who simply wish to retire older elephants, who are unsuitable for breeding, for ethical and philosophical reasons of their own, is wrong.
Pat Derby goes on to point out, "To punish these two zoo directors and their dedicated staffs for attempting to provide a better quality of life for their elephants is petty and unprofessional. And further, to attack private sanctuaries who have no quarrel with zoos and are trying to work in a cooperative spirit to achieve common goals will further alienate the public and some AZA members -- generating more adverse publicity. To support the actions of individual members who use dominance to control elephants with training that is clearly inhumane while chastising others who maintain high ethical and philosophical standards provides critics with more reason to oppose zoos. "
While Dr. Hutchins' expects sanctuaries to open themselves up for detailed peer evaluation through periodic accreditation," like all pedants, he avoids the issue of why some responsible zoo professionals, government officials and concerned members of the public have supported the transfer of selected elephants to sanctuaries.
"If the AZA is to prevent such actions in the future, they must stop attacking their own members who have higher ethical standards than the AZA. "Derby declared.
Which leads one to question: Is the AZA, supposedly charged with the responsibility to protect zoo animals, a friend or foe to animals?